Experts urge govt to include Cancer screening in Health Insurance Scheme

Some oncologists at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, Lagos, urged the Federal Government to include cancer screening and treatment in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

They spoke at the Breast Cancer Awareness Walk organised by the Radiotherapy Department of LUTH on Wednesday in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) is an annual international health campaign organised by major breast cancer charities and organisation every October.

It is to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause and prevention.

Speaking, Dr Habeeb Muhammad, Head of Radiotherapy Department in LUTH, said that government needed to bring cancer screening and treatment into the NHIS to reduce burden of the treatment of cancer.

According to him, effective insurance coverage will encourage the habit of regular screening amongst Nigerians for early detection of cancer and other diseases.

“We are having this awareness walk in order to join the rest of the world to commemorate the global Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

“This is also to showcase, most importantly that cancer, when detected early, is curable and the key to early detection is regular screening.

“We want government to include cancer screening and treatment in our health insurance scheme because if we are insured, everybody will be willing to go for screening.

“This will go a long way in reducing the current mortality rate of cancer in the country, because cancer can be a very difficult disease to manage if it is detected late.

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“However, it is much cheaper when it is discovered early and the chances of it being cured increases if it is detected early through screening,” Mohammad said.

He said that cancer has a multifactorial causative factors, which could be either hereditary or through other acquired factors.

“Though, we have various types of cancer, the commonest in female in our environs is the breast cancer, followed by cervical cancer.

“It increases with puberty, but it is more common amongst women who are above the age of 40.

“However, we still have some women who are below the age of 40 and still get presented with breast cancer.

“We will encourage ladies below the age of 40 to do an ultrasound scan of their breast regularly and all these will be included in our awareness advocacy.

“People who live a sedentary lifestyle, such as lack of exercise, have a higher risk of having cancer.

“We are urging the general public to go for screening, cancer can affect anyone from children to adult, cutting across all race,” Mohammad said.

Also, Prof. Abayomi Durosimi-Etti, a Professor of Radiation and Clinical Oncology in LUTH, said that inclusion of cancer screening into the NHIS would ensure universal health coverage.

“This will reduce the number of people who come up with late presentation and also reduce the cost of treatment.

“Because the cost of treatment and treating effectively is very high and can be averted through early detection.

“Breast cancer is a big problem in Nigeria and other developing countries, and also the commonest cancer, which is seen in men.

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“Awareness is necessary and we will continue to join the rest of the world to create the necessary awareness that will contribute to reducing the scourge of cancer globally,” he said.

The professor, however commended the effort of government in building more radiotherapy centres in Nigeria and also rehabilitating the existing centres in all the teaching hospitals including LUTH.

Commenting, Dr Anthonia Sowunmi, also a Consultant Radiation and Clinical Oncologist in LUTH, said that annually, about 1.7 million of breast cancer new cases were being discovered globally.

According to her, breast cancer is the commonest cause of mortality amongst females in Nigeria and also across the globe.

“This is why we need to make people to understand, through effective sensitisation, that if breast cancer is detected early, it is treatable and the patient can have their normal lifespan.

“Because the way it is now, every one in eight women is prone to develop breast cancer; this is why it is important to educate the public on the risk factors,” Sowunmi said. (NAN)